In the western parts of India, under the hot sun, cotton farmers toil away making their living. Once the cotton is grown and harvested, it is separated (normally in a cotton gin), before being sold to traders. From here, the cotton goes on to yarn spinners, the fabric mill, before finally being cut and sewn into garments. In simple terms, this is what the supply chain for the textile industry looks like. However, those soft fluffy white cotton bolls, looking so pure, can hold many dark secrets.
This relatively straight forward supply chain is repeated millions of times over, to provide clothing to the masses. Yet, discrepancies in the treatment of humans who are the heartbeat of this chain are startling. While white cotton can give the impression of being pure, a more adequate description may be ‘poisonous’ cotton bolls. GMO seeds coupled with high concentrations of insecticides and pesticides is having a debilitating effect on the famers; both in terms of their health, and financially. These people need a way out, and you wouldn’t believe who could be the hero.
It’s YOU… me… companies such as Etiko, No Nasties and Mighty Good Undies. Any company who produces to Fairtrade standards, and any consumer who supports and purchases Fairtrade products. So how exactly does Fairtrade change things? When we look back at the supply chain, there are 2 key areas that fairtrade improves.
Number one – the farmer. Traders are often after the cheapest price possible, and with so many cotton producers in India, they have massive control over the farmers. Often, the farmers are forced to either sell at a low price (sometimes even a loss), or not sell at all. When Fairtrade steps in, the Farmers are now offered a fair price for their cotton. How amazing is that! Couple this with the funds to invest in organic farming practices, and these farmers are no longer exposed to harsh chemicals or forced to pay big money for GMO seeds. To find out more about how organic farming is better for the farmer, and the environment, read our post titled ‘Organic Does Matter’, or, ‘The Fairtrade Difference’.
Number two – the factories. The vast majority of people have heard a story, or seen an image about the appalling conditions garment workers are forced to work in. Whether that be in the news about the infamous Rana Plaza Collapse or through a supporter or advocate for Fairtrade. Manufacturers are often in a similar place as cotton farmers – being pressured to deliver masses of product for the lowest price, otherwise the company will order from a different factory. There are places that take pride in the relationship with their employees. Reaching far beyond a disingenuous ‘no child labour’ or ‘minimum wage compliance’ policy, Fairtrade certified manufacturers are doing all they can for their workers. For example, the Rajlakshmi Cotton Mill states: “We also provide other benefits to the workers: such as transport to and from the jobsite, company sponsored meals, a health plan and funding for worker’s children’s education. We believe that we are doing what we should to protect our future…”
Now that you are up to speed with what a textile supply chain looks likes, and where Fairtrade fits within it, we want to explore the why. Saturday, May 13th, was World Fair Trade day… something we celebrated in a big way at Tummah Ethical Trade! So far this post gives some insight into why Fairtrade is important to us, and why we support it so strongly. Our stance as a business is clear, and the need for Fairtrade is evident. What about the other heroes; the everyday consumers who are behind this movement.
Why do you support Fairtrade?
We posed this questions to some of our supporters as part of World Fair Trade Day, and got some awesome responses!
As A Statement Against Exploitation
I hate the thought that someone else and their family are being taken advantage of just so me and my family can have ‘things’
I started buying fairtrade products when i realised the people who made a lot of the things i purchased were being exploited.
For a Better World
I want to support the fairtrade movement because i believe we should all be conscious consumers and the people who make products we buy deserve a fair wage.
‘FairTrade’ is FAIR to all involved in the supply train, it is the right choice morally and ethically!
For The Environment
I just want to take a moment to thank those who took part in this and sent in your answers. It’s fascinating to see the difference in ideas and beliefs behind the decision, but wonderful that they can all be put towards to same common goal! In numbers, we can make a much bigger impact.
What better way to finish than in the words of one of our supporters. This answer, I believe, encompasses everything the Fairtrade movement stands for and is trying to achieve.